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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11


Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0283

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1781-06-23

To the President of Congress

[salute] Sir

The answer from Petersbourg, as it is given to the Public, is this.1
Her Majesty, the Empress of all the Russias, declares: That as much as She been satisfied with the Zeal with which their high mightinesses have accepted her mediation, so much and more has her compassionate Heart been affected with the difficulties formed by the Court of London, in referring the reconciliation with the Republic to a subsequent and general Negotiation of Peace, between all the belligerent Powers, under the combined mediation of her Imperial Majesty, and his Majesty, the Roman Emperor. As soon as this negotiation shall take place, her Majesty promises beforehand to the Republick all the assistance that depends upon her, to the End, that the Republic may without delay return into the rank of neutral Powers, and thereby enjoy entirely, and without restraint, all the rights and advantages, which her Accession to the Engagements between her Imperial Majesty and the Kings her high Allies, ought to assure to her. In this Expectation, the Intention of her Majesty is, { 384 } conjointly with their Majesties,2 to persuade that Court to that moderation, and those pacific Sentiments, which their high mightinesses on their part have manifested. The Empress flatters herself, that the times, and the events which may unexpectedly happen will bring forth Circumstances of such a nature, as will put her in a situation, to make appear, in a manner the most efficacious, her good will and her affection, of which She sincerely desires to be able to give proofs to their high mightinesses.
This answer gives great Scope to Speculation and Conjecture: but I shall trouble Congress with a very few remarks upon it.
In the first place, without insinuating her opinion, concerning the Justice or Injustice of the War between Great Britain and the United Provinces; She imputes the ill success of her mediation between them, to the Court of London, and not at all to the Republick.
2dly. She applauds the moderation and pacific sentiments of their high mightinesses, and implicitly censures the Court of London for opposite dispositions.
Thus far the declaration is unfavourable to the English, and a pledge of her Imperial honour, at least not to take any part in their favour.
3dly. It appears that the Court of London has proposed a Negotiation for Peace between all the belligerent Powers, under the mediation of the Empress and the Emperor. But, as it is certain the Court of London does not admit the United States of America to be one of the belligerent Powers, and as no other Power of Europe, except France, as yet admits it to be a Power, it is very plain to me, that the British Ministry mean nothing but Chicanery: to unman and disarm their Enemies with delusive dreams of Peace; or to intrigue them or some of them into a Peace seperately from America, and without deciding our Question.
4thly. The declaration says not that the Empress has accepted this mediation, nor upon what terms She would accept it. Here We are left to conjecture. The Dutch Ambassadors at Petersbourg wrote last winter to the Hague, that the Empress would not accept of this mediation with the Emperor, but upon two preliminary Conditions, vizt. that the Court of London should acknowledge the Independence of America, and accede to the principles of the late Marine Treaty, concerning the rights of Neutrals.3 To this She may have since added, that Holland should previously be set at Peace, and become a neutral Power, or She may have altered her Sentiments. Here We can only conjecture.
{ 385 }
5thly. It appears that the Kings of Denmark and Sweeden have joined, or are to join, the Empress in a new effort with the Court of London, to persuade it to make Peace with Holland. But how vigorous or decisive this effort is to be, or what will be the Conduct, if they should still be unsuccessful, is left only to conjecture.
6thly. There are Hints at future Events and Circumstances, which her Majesty foresees, but the rest of the World do not, which may give her occasion to show her good Will. Here is nothing declared, nothing promised; yet it leaves room to suppose, that her Majesty and her high Allies may have insisted upon Conditions from the Court of London, which accepted may give Peace to the Republick, or rejected, may oblige Russia, Sweeden and Denmark to join Holland in the War. But all this is so faint, reserved and mysterious, that no dependence whatever can be placed upon it.
I am sorry to see the Idea of a Negotiation for a general Peace held up, because I am so well persuaded it is only an insidious Maneuvre of the British Ministry, as I am that many Powers of Europe and especially Holland will be the Dupe of it. I confess I should dread a Negotiation for a general Peace at this time, because I should expect Propositions for short Truces, Uti possidetis's, and other Conditions, which would leave our Trade more embarrassed, our Union more precarious, and our Liberties at greater hazard, than they can be in a Continuance of the War, at the same time that it would put Us to as constant and almost as great an Expence. Nevertheless, if proposals of Peace, or of Conferences and Negotiations to that End, should be proposed to me, which they have not as yet from any quarter, it will be my Duty to attend to them with as much Patience and Delicacy too, as if I believed them sincere.
Americans must wean themselves from the Hope of any signal assistance from Europe. If all the Negotiations of Congress can keep up the Reputation of the United States so far, as to prevent any Nation from joining England, it will be much. But there are so many difficulties in doing this, and so many deadly Blows are aimed at our Reputation for Honour, Faith, Integrity, Union, Fortitude and Power, even by Persons, who ought to have the highest opinion of them, and the tenderest Regard for them, that I confess myself sometimes almost discouraged, and wish myself returning through all the dangers of the Enemy, to America, where I certainly could not do less, and possibly might do more for the public Good.

[salute] I have the Honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

[signed] John Adams
{ 386 }
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 224–227). Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 350–353); endorsed: “Amsterdam June 23. 1781.” LbC (Adams Papers).
1. The following paragraph is a translation of the French text that appeared in various Dutch newspapers, including the Gazette de Leyde of 22 June.
2. At this point John Thaxter omitted a passage that appears in both the Letterbook and the duplicate. The Letterbook reads “to make immediately, a new Attempt at the Court of London,...”
3. See JA's letter of 11 March to Jean de Neufville & Fils, and note 3, above.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0284

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1781-06-23

To the President of Congress

Amsterdam, 23 June 1781. RC in John Thaxter's hand PCC, No. 84, III, f. 228–230. printed : Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:515–517.
This letter consists of an English translation of a memorial that the regency of the city of Zierikzee presented to the States of Zeeland on 12 June. The regency deplored the situation in which the nation found itself with respect to prosecuting the war against Britain. Everything possible, they declared, should be done to protect the nation, its commerce and possessions, and to “annoy the enemy.” The regency also called for an investigation to determine the reasons why the nation found itself in such dangerous circumstances. “Thus We see,” Adams wrote in the final paragraph, “that two Cities of Zealand, Middlebourg and Zierikzee, are co-operating with Amsterdam, Haerlem, Dort, Delft, &c., in order to arouse the Republic to action; how many months or years may roll away before they succeed, it is impossible for me to say, because it will depend upon Events of War, Reports of Peace, and the Councils of other Sovereigns in Europe as yet inscrutable; but it will depend upon nothing more than the Fate of Clinton and Cornwallis in America.”
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 228–230). printed: (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:515–517.)

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0285

Author: Bondfield, John
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-06-23

From John Bondfield

[salute] Sir

I had the Honor to pay my respects to you the 17th. March since which I am not favord with a line from you.1 We are without any arrivals of late date from America the latest is a small schooner at Nantes from Edenton who reports Cornwallis was retreating not being able to pursue his plan of marching thro the Southern States and forming a junction with Arnold.
By Loyds list of the 7th. mention is made of a large old french ship having Artillery Stores and Cloathing on board bound from France to No. Ama. taken by the Homeward bound Jamaica Fleet. This Ship we suspect must be the Marquis de la fayett from Lorient. Should it so prove will be a most heavy loss to the United States from the { 387 } Nessessity they are in of the Goods on Board her to replace which will require time if continued in the same line.2 We rejoice to learn the Merchants in Holland are entering so spirritedly into Conections with the United States being told a small Fleet is preparing to sail under Convoy of Comodore Gillon we wish them safe to port they have a hazardous Navigation before they get free of these Seas.
The Ship in which Colonel Palfrey embarked must certainly have founderd being without advice of her arrival in Europe or America she saild from Philadelphia 21 Decr. last. That Gentleman being impowerd to transact the Commercial Affairs of the States his non Arrival will suspend the execution of further supplies to the Nomination of some other Consul or Agent. They write us from Philadelphia the loss of Statia is irreparable from the continual supplies formerly drawn from that Island and which they are unable to provide themselves Elsewhe[re] add to which many of the most enterprizing merchants are great Sufferers by the loss of [ . . . ] Ships and property at the Island. The loss of the Luzern belonging to Philadelphia bound from Lorient is also a severe Blow her Cargoe amounting to upwards of eight hundred Thousand Livres3 repeated Loss's of such consiquence will suspend the continuance of adventurers and must break in upon the conections subsisting betwixt this Kingdom and America. The chain which had taken place betwixt the Private Merchants in Holland and America will be restraind unless in such cases as the present where a Convoy so formidable as that of Mr. Gillons offers, from this City we have had no Trade with America for many Months we have a considerable Stock of Broad Cloths and other Coarse Woollens which the want of conveyances prevents us from forwarding the arrival of which in America would be of great Service.

[salute] With respect I am Sir your very hhb Servant

[signed] John Bondfield
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Son Excellence John Adams Esqr. Ministre Plénipotentiaire des Etats unis de l'amérique à Amsterdam”; endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. John Bondfield 23d. June 1781.” A torn corner has resulted in the loss of a small amount of text.
1. Bondfield wrote on 17 March and 6 April, both above.
2. For the Marquis de Lafayette and its capture on 3 May, see Bondfield's letter of 6 April, and note 1, above. The London Chronicle of 16–19 June reported that the Marquis de Lafayette carried “clothing for 43,000 troops, with a great quantity of brass and iron ordnance. It seems Congress had made as it were their last struggle, to push their credit in France far enough to enable them to procure the fitting out, and the freight of this ship; the Public, therefore may judge how distressing to the rebels the capture must necessarily prove.”
3. The London Chronicle of 19–21 April reported the capture of the Chevalier de La Luzerne.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/